Castle Waiting Volume 2
I had high expectations for Castle Waiting, given that the first volume was outstanding, and I wasn’t disappointed. I found Volume 2 so strong, in fact, that it was my best graphic novel of 2010.
Here, we learn more about all the characters as they go about their daily life, making their castle homey. The Lady Jain is seeking more suitable quarters for herself and her son Pindar, so nice-but-slow Simon and Rackham tour her around the huge building, sharing legends and history of the place and giving us insight into their daily life. By introducing the setting in this way, and even having someone remark, “The place has more character than a lot of people do!”, Linda Medley makes it clear that this is a very different kind of series.
I normally am not a big fan of fantasy, but here, the characters are so strong in personality, so interesting and likable, that I want to spend more time with them. The fantasy setting allows for such unusual beings as the horse-man Chess (cause he’s a knight) or the bird-headed organizer Rackham (named for the illustrator, whose style he resembles) or the adorable house sprites or the continuing battle of wits between the bearded nun and the odd ball-shaped demon with only a face and two legs. Simon, meanwhile, reminds me of Big Moose in his simplicity and good-heartedness and creativity. He’s wonderful to watch with the baby, since they have certain sensibilities in common.
The true strength of Castle Waiting, though, is Medley’s gorgeous art. The characters are perfect, distinctive and expressive, and the storytelling so strong you don’t even notice it. Instead, you’re visiting with this self-created family for a while — and it’s never long enough. When I close the cover, it’s always a melancholy action, because I want more time with these people, more adventures, more humor and good-heartedness.
Interspersed among the “current day” events are flashbacks to Jain’s childhood, her family, and her arranged marriage. (As a rich young lady, that’s her fate.) We also meet Dayne and Tolly, visiting hammerlings and adopted family of the laconic blacksmith Henry. They’ve come seeking assistance and wind up staying to help fix up Jain’s new quarters. Their presence, in addition to providing plenty of jokes as they compare cultures, allows for more hints about Henry’s background and how he became the person he is.
Also in this volume is Doctor Fell, the castle’s medic who lives in his own world. Sister Peace is trying to keep him tethered to the group instead of leaving him to his hallucinations and imagination, but sometimes it’s more difficult than one hoped. He’s a complex character, pitiful but strangely sympathetic, especially once his history is told late in the volume. In contrast, the love story between Simon’s parents is also shared, providing a quiet, pleasant tale.
(Note: There is some unexplained oddity about the published credits for this volume. According to the publisher, Linda Medley’s name was omitted from the book at her request. I mention this only because it helps explain why the story doesn’t conclude in this volume. I still hope that we will see more of this series from her in future. Purely from selfish reasons, of course — my heart would break if I never found out Pindar’s true history.)
Update: Since this book was published and this review was written, there has been an updated version released as Castle Waiting Volume 2: The Definitive Edition. That volume contains three additional issues’ worth of content, as explained here.